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How to Train During Ramadan – The Ultimate Guide V.5

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It’s that time again. Here is Version 5 of our Ramadan strategy: how to NAIL Ramadan, maintain your gains with minimum intrusion to the spiritual aspects. Including your full workout routine during ramadan:

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Ramadan…
A period for mental resolve and spiritual benefit.

Video version of this post:

A couple of years ago I would have read the words:

Ramadan…

A period for catabolism and sickening amounts of cottage cheese.

Salam bros.

If you’re in the same situation and faced with the question of how to train in Ramadan, this article is definitely for you. If not, you can still learn from it by taking the principles of adapting your diet and training to a nocturnal schedule.

The physical requirements of Ramadan are simply no food or water during daylight hours.


Fasting in Ramadan can also have several benefits:

– Improved mental discipline.

– A chance to rekindle your spiritual connection, shut away the distractions and dive inwardly.

– A chance to allow training/diet to run in the background and to focus on higher priorities.

– The potential for restored insulin sensitivity and nutrient partitioning.

– Higher growth hormone output during the fasts.

 add to ramadan article


The Experiments

Now just to put myself in the dingus-seat for a moment: Over the last 5 years I have tried several reckless strategies to train during Ramadan, and have finally arrived at an optimal solution for any buff Muslims. I’d like to save you the headache off the bat.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BjhyjEJBY9M/?taken-by=propanefitness

Ramadan during the past 3 years has fallen mostly during summer in the UK, meaning much longer fasts:

Failed Strategy #1: The ‘Half-assing it’
Training: Stop training with weights altogether and attempt a bodyweight circuit once per week after your evening meal.
Diet: Eating according to appetite. (Reduced during Ramadan: remember, your stomach capacity reduces).

Result
Major strength loss and regression (20kg loss on all lifts). The fasts were tough. Set me back a couple of months of training time.

Mistake: Calories were obviously far too low with a restricted eating window. Combine with stark reduction in training stimulus? Great recipe for strength regression.

Failed Strategy #2: The ‘Bro’
Training: Train fasted at the gym in the evening before it closes – high volume and high intensity. Wait an hour until you can eat.

Diet: Attempt to eat ‘clean’ – choking down masses of cottage cheese, avoiding late-night carbs (casein brah, don’t want to go catabolic during the fast!).

Result
Dehydrated and felt horrendous while training – gave myself a nasty deadlift injury too.. duh. 8kg weight loss and some strength losses. Food stops being enjoyable.


Mistake:
Total volume of food went up, but silly additional constraints meant a reduction in calories and therefore excess weight loss and a miserable time.

Failed Strategy #3: The ‘Stomach-Buster’
Training: Go mental in the opposite direction and do a 5-day-a-week shoulder specialisation program, training at 2am at a 24-hour gym.

Diet: Masses of calories, meticulously tracked. Lots of junk food, cheesecake in a blender. Rice and Meat Curry, 1kg of chips and a whole chicken every night. Fit taraweeh somewhere in between it all.

I felt like this


Result

Gain 10kg on your overhead press, some size in your delts, and completely miss the point of Ramadan. Feel so bloated you have to lie down at night, and feel sick and thirsty during the day from all the sodium – genuinely dreading the prospect of eating that evening. Overly food-focused and total loss of focus on Ramadan itself, including a reversed sleeping pattern. Fail.

Years 4.5 and 6: Finally getting the hang of this business

Brought training volume down to a sensible level, ate at maintenance with appropriate calorie density food-choices and continued to progress while minimally impacting on time, headspace and spiritual commitments.

Lessons Learned

Ramadan is a time for internal focus. You should not be training 5-7x per week, stuffing yourself at night to keep the catabolism monster away, mentally occupied with fear of losing your gains. Equally, letting your hard-earned physique go entirely to pot is unnecessary and will cost you the subsequent few months of damage control well after Ramadan is over.

What we want is an approach that allows training to take back seat, doing the bare minimum to maintain your strength, limiting your risk of injury, while letting you get the most out of Ramadan.

Here’s how to do it right:

The Optimal Ramadan Strategy:

1 – Forget clean eating. eat for two purposes:

a) Match evening food choices to your appetite:

There are two types of people in this world:
– Those who gain weight during Ramadan,
– and those who lose weight.

You need to select your food choices based on your appetite. The more common outcome of a short eating window and stomach-shrinking is that people tend to undereat and get run-down as a result.

Some people can, however, beat the odds and manage to inadvertently gain weight during the month – usually a combination of too much ghee and putting training on hold.

The answer: aim for more calorie-dense foods and avoid foods that might normally bloat you up, e.g. overdoing the oats or dairy.

Rice, whey, chicken, fatty cuts of meat, pastries, sweets, fruit, ice-cream, whatever you need.

If you’re of the opposite disposition: begin iftar and suhoor with some lean protein and fibrous veggies to curb your appetite, before moving on to the naughty stuff.

b) Getting sufficient protein: Prioritise protein, aiming for 1.5-2g/kg bodyweight daily, followed by carbs + fat, to satiety. So if you’re an 80kg man, that’s 120-160g protein.

c) Protein goal, calorie goal: Don’t aim for specific macros during the month – hit a protein range (1.5-2g/kg) and calorie goal (maintenance) made up from any combination of carbs and fats.

2 – Preparation

Prepare your nutritional bases and a multivitamin during the day, with a ready­ made protein shake. Don’t be afraid to rely heavily on whey during the night to hit your protein targets. We want to eliminate friction, and minimise the number of diet-decisions you need to make once sunset hits.


3- Don’t deliberately aim for a calorie deficit.

If calories are too low, you’ll be worn down and under-recovered from the training program below. The only fitness goal you should realistically aim to pursue is maintenance during this month. You may find that you naturally eat a deficit from the restricted eating window, but this is not the time to try to force it. Remember, portions can be misleading when eating a day’s worth of food over a short period.

4 – Stay hydrated at night. Aim for at least 2.5 litres.

– Try to spread this out throughout the evening, so you don’t flush it all and end up thirsty the next day.

5 – Forget the ‘no carbs at night’ claptrap.

If you’ve been reading this website for a while, you’ll know by now that carbohydrates at night is potentially more muscle-sparing and fat burning than having a larger breakfast. ‘No carbs at night’ has been a crippling myth for years.

6 – You won’t ‘go catabolic’ during the fast.

The potentially catabolic part is too large of a WEEKLY CALORIE DEFICIT and INSUFFICIENT PROTEIN. This won’t be a problem if you follow the above guidelines. While fasting is technically a catabolic process, you’ll offset any muscle loss by eating sufficient calories and signalling your body to retain muscle with the training program.


7: Train at night, 2-3x/week with the low volume strategy given below.

  • Find a 24 hour gym nearby.  They are surprisingly busy 11pm-2am in Ramadan – they must have all read this article!
  • Avoid training fasted: the dehydration increases risk of injury and will inhibit performance + recovery.

More isn’t always better. The gains from your training volume are commensurate with your ability to recover from it. The data shows that reducing volume during ramadan produced better muscle gains in this study.

Even if you train after iftar, don’t push the intensity. It takes time to hydrate, and training to failure where your technique is compromised is just putting you at risk. Stay away from failure: leave a couple of reps in the tank.

Avoid deadlifts during the month, as it is the movement that carries the highest risk when dehydrated. I’m speaking from experience unfortunately.

Careful not to let night time turn into rampant bingeing!
Careful not to let evenings turn into rampant bingeing!

Example Day:

7am: Awake – fasting until 10pm

6pm: Depending on your working hours, 6pm-8pm might be a good time to catch some sleep.

10pm: Iftar:
Serving of rice & chicken, and dessert. 1 litre water

11pm: Taraweeh

Midnight: Begin training, sip intraworkout drink (See below)

1am: Suhoor (pre-fast meal). Should be similar to your iftar, but with more fibre and fat. This will slow digestion and help to maintain satiety during the fast.

1.30am: Sleep

Intra-Workout Drink:

Dehydration is catabolic and increases your risk of injury, so be sure to stay hydrated during your workouts. I use 1 scoop of whey or MP The Pump (BCAAs and electrolyte blend) in 2 litres of water and (optionally) up to 50g maltodextrin or haribo. Adequate fluids, electrolytes, blood glucose and aminos, will improve cellular hydration and performance. 

Training Template

The goal of training during Ramadan is strength maintenance/gain,. We advise a low to moderate volume split that can be done 2x/week, using straight sets.

By treating Ramadan as an extended deload, you can increase your training volume and intensity in the weeks leading up to the month, using this time to recover and restore anabolic signalling. 

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Monday:

A) Seated press: 5×3 @80% 1RM
B) Bench: 5×3 @80% 1RM
C) Weighted chin ups: 4×6
D) Hanging leg raises: 2×12

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Friday:

A) Squat: 5×3 @80%
B) Close grip bench: 5×5
C) Seated V-­bar row: 3 x 10
D) Rope face pulls: 3×12
E) Calves/Abs 3×12

Make sure to spend slightly longer warming up hips and lower back before squats. Kelly Starrett’s hip opener is a personal favourite:

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Summary:

  • Daytime: Fast
  • Sundown (Either after Maghrib or Isha): Begin training while sipping your intraworkout drink. Do not train dehydrated.
  • Iftar: Serving of protein, followed by carbohydrates, then fat. 1 litre water.
  • Suhoor: Higher fat + fibre meal with 60-100g protein

 

Troubleshooting:

Q – Should I do cardio? 

A – Don’t be ridiculous. Unless you’re training for endurance, the only use for cardio here would be to offset a calorie surplus eaten during the night, in which case use this as an opportunity for self control. Remember the Hadith ““Enough for a human being to have luqaymat (a few mouthfuls) that prop up his spine and, if he must have more in his stomach, then one third of food, one third of water, and one third of air.” 

Cardio to deliberately create a calorie deficit is a recipe for fatigue. The only training goal during this period is the minimum stimulus to maintain muscle mass. The training approach above will ensure that. See this paper if you’re interested in how ramadan affects sports performance.

Q – Will BCAAs break my fast?

A – Yes, they will. No food or water must pass the lips during the fast.

BCAAs during the fast: Absolutely haram

Q – My gym shuts before maghrib (sundown), so I can’t have whey/BCAA and then train. I don’t have access to a 24 hour gym. What can I do?

The three options:

  • Train at home: We have a home-workout trick up our sleeve for this one in our VIP client group.
    I would not advise the other two options:
  • Train in the evening before gym closes: If you must do this, keep the rest periods LONG to reduce sweating and dehydration. Remember the goal of the training is strength maintenance, not to run yourself into the ground.
  • Train early morning when the gym opens

Q – How should I train after Ramadan ends?

A – Because of the probable calorie restriction you have undergone during Ramadan, there’s a fantastic opportunity to rebound and gain some good size and strength in the few weeks following Eid.

Gradually increase calories and volume to a  higher level to take full advantage using this template. You will experience decent muscle and strength gains and potentially loss of bodyfat at the same time if you time this correctly.

Gradually increasing calories and training volume after a deload period creates a favourable metabolic and hormonal environment for muscle gain[1]. Bodybuilders take advantage of this brief rebound after competitions to make their best gains of the year.

Doing this while staying lean requires guidance and individualisation based on your training experience.

Conclusion

So, enjoy Ramadan this year, maximise your spiritual benefit, and use these guidelines to take a load off your mind when it comes to training and diet. Don’t fall into the same traps that I did, and you too can become Muslim-spiderman:


Want more on Ramadan? Remember Ben Tormey? Check his guide here, having worked with hundreds of PT clients in Dubai, he’s observed the challenges clients face in Ramdan, including the paradoxical weight gain and schedule disruption. Includes training and meal planning guides here.

52 replies on “How to Train During Ramadan – The Ultimate Guide V.5”

Salam yusef,
Thank you very much for this article.
This is very helpful. My gym unfortunatly closes just at Magreb so I was wondering if you would advice me to train 1 hour before Iftar? Because in the article you mention doing exercises at home but I have no weights at home.
Also you mention to don’t do any deadlifts because this exercise has the highest risk of injuries when dehydrated. Do you have any tips for saver glute exercises before breaking my fast?
Thank you very much and may Allah accept our Fasting and prayers

Glad it was helpful Ibtissam – training before iftar isn’t ideal as you’re at higher risk of injury. It’s up to you whether you want to take the risk, but I’d advise going lighter. Alternatively a bodyweight routine would do fine – a safer alternative for deadlifts could be glute bridges :)

Salam wa aleikoum. Ur program sound’s really good brother except it didn’t include ppl who works at night.. A.K.A me i work till 11pm till 07:00 am and i live in finland so the time that we fast here is about 21hrs 30 min so please brothet if u have time to answet to this it would be great! Jzklh

Jazakallah for the article mate. I’ve only been training seriously for about 2 Ramadhans but I thought I did pretty well last year. I’m hoping to utilise the leangains approach this year with a little tweaking. Our feeding window will be about 5 hours i think here. Plan is iftar – moderate/large meal, protein and carbs high. Taraweehs will take us to about the 2hour left mark then i’ll take some whey with water and do a workout concentrating on only the big lifts with maybe a few quick assisstance exercises (shouldn’t take longer than 30-40mins) then straight home for sehri again high carbs and protein. I’ll probably make a high calorie whey smoothie because otherwise i won’t meet maintenance.

Go to http://www.leangains.com for a website full of great info on the benefits of fasting and weightlifting.

Glad you liked the article Abdullah. The Leangains approach works well with Ramadan, but the crucial missing element is *hydration*. If there’s only one thing to take from this article it’s the intraworkout nutrition.

Your plan looks good, I hope you benefit physically, mentally and spiritually from this Ramadan.

Great post!

I am just confused about one thing……

Are you saying Eat something light at sunset, then work out and come back for a bigger meal?

The posts below is what is confusing…….

6 – Iftar should be high-carb, high protein. This will be your post-workout meal on training days. No guideline amounts given here, because I don’t want anyone to obsess over this. Just make it an ample meal. Rice and chicken will do, and don’t be afraid of the fattier cuts of meat.

8 – Last, and most importantly: Intra-workout nutrition.
Cellular dehydration is highly catabolic, so be sure to keep the cells hydrated during your workouts.

Confusing because you are saying that iftar is your post workout ( after) meal but we should be hydrated during the workout?

So what do you recommending breaking fast with?

Help?

osiris said:
Great post!
I am just confused about one thing……
Are you saying Eat something light at sunset, then work out and come back for a bigger meal?
The posts below is what is confusing…….
6 – Iftar should be high-carb, high protein. This will be your post-workout meal on training days. No guideline amounts given here, because I don’t want anyone to obsess over this. Just make it an ample meal. Rice and chicken will do, and don’t be afraid of the fattier cuts of meat.
8 – Last, and most importantly: Intra-workout nutrition.
Cellular dehydration is highly catabolic, so be sure to keep the cells hydrated during your workouts.
Confusing because you are saying that iftar is your post workout ( after) meal but we should be hydrated during the workout?
So what do you recommending breaking fast with?
Help?

Hi Osiris, thanks.
The optimal approach would be:
– Sundown: Begin training with Intra-workout drink + 3 litres water
– Post workout: First solid meal
So you’d be breaking your fast with the intraworkout shake, then eating when you get home.

maltodextrin

Yusef said:
Hi Osiris, thanks.

The optimal approach would be:

– Sundown: Begin training with Intra-workout drink + 3 litres water
– Post workout: First solid meal

So you’d be breaking your fast with the intraworkout shake, then eating when you get home.

Thanks for the clarification!

Much appreciated for the workout as well!

Yusef said:
Hi Osiris, thanks.

The optimal approach would be:

– Sundown: Begin training with Intra-workout drink + 3 litres water
– Post workout: First solid meal

So you’d be breaking your fast with the intraworkout shake, then eating when you get home.

Fantastic!! Thanks for the clarification!

Much appreciated for the workout as well!

Hi Moe – that depends on your schedule and whether you have suhur. I sleep after isha and only occasionally wake up for suhur.

i have a question. I have to train up for a marathon. can i at least do 10km after high carbo, high protein iftar? im still not sure of your Q – Should I do cardio?

clarify? =D

If you’re training for a marathon, yes you can. Can’t see the fun in that to be honest but since you’re doing your cardio for performance purposes rather than fat loss, then it’s fine. Make sure to compensate with calories to avoid sudden weight loss

This is great stuff – I get a ton of questions on this exact issue and always find myself giving the same recommendation over and over again. I’m gonna bookmark this and just forward people here from now on.

Awesome Sean, thanks. Yeah it was a common question so we thought best nip it in the bud and write a guide.

grt post bro. i’ve been training on ramadan last year but this year leave training aside to concentrate on fasting.insha allah after eid i will be training much harder with less injury. taking this month as my off season. :)

Hey bro :) As Ramadan draws near I was thinking of maximising weight loss through gym and running apart from fasting at the same time. How do you suggest I fit these into my daily/weekly schedule? Is there a way? Jazakallah khayr!

Salam Muhammad – you can incorporate running into the above template, provided you stay hydrated enough and do it during the feeding window.

Hope that helps

assalamualaikum yusef,

i just would like to ask, would it be advisable to train bodyweights ,say, 45mins before maghrib?
and sometimes due to my odd working hours , i might not be able to do workouts before maghrib, is it advisable to perform workouts in the morning?
i know it’s a bit paradox, but i’m trying to reduce my bodyfat but at the same time trying to gain muscle .

thank you

Hi there,

Thanks for this, really helped. The link on ‘this template’ for the answer to ‘how should I train after Ramadan?’ Isn’t working, any other links?

Regards,

Zak

Hi Zak – glad it was useful. Link should be fixed now: propanefitness.com/the-propane-program-simple-rules-dramatic-results/

Hi Zak – glad it was useful. Link should be fixed now propanefitness.com/the-propane-program-simple-rules-dramatic-results/

Assalamualikum. I am in high school and I have signed up for a training program at my school. Suhoor in Houston ends at roughly 5:15 in the morning. My training is from 7:30 to 9:30 Mon thru Thurs two hours after suhoor. After that I have to wait 11 hours at roughly 8:30 for iftar. In my training we do mainly heavy-weight lifting. We work on different muscles each day. How can I stay hydrated through my workout without breaking my fast? What foods should I eat at suhoor and iftar? Should I alternate my workout during my training? Ex: Bench 75 instead of 85. Quitting my training is not an option. Moving the times is not an option(This is a school training program-They wont move the times just for me) Please Help. Respond quickly- Obviously Ramadan is in two days. In three days I’ll be fasting and doing my training. Thanks

Salam Wasiq,

This is not an ideal situation but the best thing is for you to stay well hydrated during suhoor, then take long rest periods between sets of your training session, i.e. minimise sweating. Avoid any cardio component of the training for the month. Your teachers will understand if you want to opt out of certain parts of the program due to Ramadan

Assalam alikum w rahematu allah

very greatful for the topic !

but , i am a woman , and train at home , and nearly have no time after Taraweeh

so is it good for me to exercise mybe 1 hour befor iftar ???

and sure i am not a body builder or something like that , but i satrted to workout and changed some of my eating habit to lose weight , and i don’t want to regain it in Ramadhan ! what is the best exercise type for me !

i thought mybe toning workouts are good , since i don’t feel so tired doing theme , not like HIIT or cardio

jazakum allaho khayran

Wasalam – if you train at home, then there’s no reason to train while fasted. Safer to wait until after iftar when you are hydrated. Best type of exercise during ramadan is the template given in the article with long rest periods, or if you don’t have access to weights, bodyweight circuits will do. Hope that helps

Salaam
Ramadan Mubarak 2014 ;). Beautiful post . quick question I have some.classes at the gym that I take over the week . the timing of.the classes are 3 hours before suhur. Do u recommend taking.those.classes while fasting?
Please advise.
Jazahkallah

Salams – glad the post helped. Did you mean the exercises are before suhur or iftar?
We don’t advise exercising before iftar due to dehydration risk

HI
great article.
What would you advise on a person who always puts wieght on during Ramadan, even if reduced calorie intake.
I will train during fast as have no other time because of work commitments- so will be training an hour or so before Iftar- light Maintenance training – bodypart per day sometimes coupled with a light run(cardio) or complex sets (clean and press/squat). And training at least 5 days a week.

for Suhoor food intake will be Water with electrolytes mix, protein smoothie, cottage cheese, maybe some fruit. When bored of that (after week or so!)- will change to eggs, toast, green tea.

iftar meal is a mix bag- sometimes healthy (grilled chicken, vegetables plenty of water), sometimes unhealthy-ish (couple fried food, rice,deserts), generally the unhealthy meal is twice a week but limit to amount thats eaten.

The foods i mentioned was the routine for suhoor last year…kept the hunger at bay, and kept me hydrated. I had minimum destruption to training..as i normally do high intensity training so Maintenance training is easy for me. Th eonly thing that really affects my training is lack of sleep!.

Even tho training and eating has been improving thro the years i still tend to put on wieght over ramadan.

what do you think?

Sounds like a good approach Add – I’d go easy on the caffeine though. Green tea, even though it only contains moderate amounts of caffeine may still disrupt your sleep.The sleep is definitely a killer though! If you’re interested in coaching over Ramadan or want to discuss options you could book in a call here: propanefitness.com/call-booking/

Hi thanks for reply.

wanted advice as to not put weight on. I never put good weight on over ramadan. What do i need to change?
As for green tea, that is kept to a minimum, if i can help it i’ll get the decaf green tea.

Salam;
Currently am lifting light weight for half an hour ( almost noon time) , and breaking my fast after 8 hours, in this case am I burning calories? Losing fat or muscle?
Plz advise

If it’s light loads and for 30 minutes, you’re unlikely to be losing muscle here. It’s not an approach I would advise though

Great post, how long would you advise to train for straight after taraweh? Are there any affects of training longer than an hour with same intensity in Ramadan?

The risks would stem from dehydration – both with intensity from heavy spinal loading as well as extended training sessions and water loss. Training after taraweeh is a good option, you can use the template in the article or get in touch with us if you’re looking for something customised :)

What’s the purpose of the jogging? I wouldn’t advise it. If you’d like to discuss further and see if we can help you devise a program for ramadan to accelerate your progress, you can book in a call with me here: propanefitness.com/call-booking/ :)

Thanks for the informative article really appreciated.
I have a couple of questions, I’m a skinny dude I weight barely 64Kg and I’ve been trying to start working out for so long finally have the motivation to do so but it’s Ramadan and this month really goes hard on me and I end up loosing more weight and sinking even deeper, so I figured I’d look up ways to get some exercising in, do you think hiking or jogging while you fast is a good idea especially for a skinny dude like me ? because that’s pretty much all I’m capable of doing for now, I can’t join a gym because I’m too ashamed of the way I look. if you think jogging is not good for me what other options do I have at home to exercise a bit ? thanks a lot and sorry for the long post.

Thanks for the comment Achraf. Jogging is not a good idea if you’re looking to gain muscle during ramadan. We’d be happy to chat and provide you with some direction if you want to book in a strategy call? Book here with myself or Jonny: propanefitness.com/call-booking/

Absolutely awesome article, best I’ve seen so far. From people who clearly know what they’re talking about.

Breath of fresh air from the bro sciencers and others who don’t really understand it from the Muslim perspective. Especially for those of us living in countries where the fast is up to 20+ hours

This is one of the best articles I’ve read about “managing” Ramadan. Great stuff, as usual, Yusef! :)

I think I wanna try that low volume approach for Ramadan this year around. But I was thinking that I can increase the volume a bit? I tend to just lose muscle very VERY quickly. Also I believe some pump work, or back-off sets, would be a bit more beneficial, as long as it doesn’t hinder overall recovery.

Thanks, again, for such great info! And I hope you’ll have a happy and fruitful Ramadan! :)

Thank you Youssef,
This post is very helpful. May allah bless you and let’s all stay fit in our minds & bodies this beautiful month. For healthy iftar tips, check out healthy__ramadan on insta.

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